A long time ago on another website far, far away, I held a tradition of kicking off the new year by listing the top 10 MMOs that deserved attention and were likely to launch that year. These days, however, the industry has changed quite a bit, most notably with early access, open development, soft launches, and crowdfunding blurring the lines of testing and play.
Therefore, I felt that a slight change was needed with 2016’s list. Instead of rattling off 10 titles that I think are going to release in the following 12 months, I’m going to mention games that strongly bear watching in the new year. Some of them will undoubtedly release, while the rest remain in alpha or beta testing, but all could have an impact on the industry and in our online communities.
Because I’m limiting the list to just 10 entries, some up-and-coming games won’t be mentioned. I have my reasons (secret, dusky reasons), but if you disagree about these or the exclusion of any title, pipe up in the comments!
There is no way we can list all of the great updates in a given year. It’s not possible. We are always going to have a bunch of personal bias creeping into things; it’s inevitable, and there are updates that get missed or otherwise lose out in the court of opinion.
I mean, let’s be honest, how many people actually knew what was going on with Final Fantasy XI? Other than me, I mean.
The important thing is that this was a year of updates, a year of changes, and a year of new stuff being added to games. So today I want to highlight what I consider the best of the back for 2015. They might not all be the most popular, and they might be things that you’ve heard from me before, but I’m still giving them the nod over everyone else.
For as long as Massively Overpowered exists, this will be one of the most memorable years in our site’s history. It was the year that, after seven year of operation, old Massively got abruptly shuttered by AOL along with Joystiq and WoW Insider. It was also the year that the community rallied around us and Kickstarted the hell out of a new site, giving us the chance to create MOP as an independent MMO entity.
2015 will no doubt be remembered for a lot of other things too, of course. I don’t think anyone could have predicted all of the craziness and unexpected turns that happened in our genre over the past 12 months. Let’s take a walk back through the year-that-was to cover the biggest, strangest, and most exciting stories that we covered.
You know one of the reasons I like writing this column? Because one of these days I’m going to be able to make a list of the best characters from Transformers and Bree isn’t going to stop me. But I also like the fact that we all know the column is completely subjective, so that when people read this they do not think that this is a carefully researched piece wherein I can prove that a given game is the best free-to-play title on the market using, like, numbers.
I hope that’s true, anyhow.
But moving along, it’s the holiday season, so you probably want a new game to play, but you both need to avoid buying games (someone might have bought one for you) and you don’t have much money (because you bought everyone some random thing already, let’s just say Combiner Wars Ultra Magnus). So here are the 10 MMOs that I think make for the best free-to-play options on the market right now based on completely subjective reasoning.
We’ll assume since you’re a savvy gamer reading Massively OP that you’re already well aware of the world’s best MMO podcast. But what do you do with your other 167 hours after you’re heard the new episodes? Communicate with other people like a chump? Perish the thought!
On a recent episode of the Massively OP Podcast, we received a listener email asking for other podcast recommendations. While we gave a few on the air, the truth is that there are plenty out there to hear, although you might not be quite as aware of them. To help you fill the audio void in your life, here are several other podcasts that tackle our favorite hobby.
It’s been a while since I wrote a column that comes out on Thursdays, which means that it’s also been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to do my usual holiday nonsense on Thanksgiving. Time was, of course, that I would wish everyone a happy St. Patrick’s Day and call it good, but when I suggested listing several holidays that aren’t being celebrated today, Bree fired back a confused look and a reminder that we are an MMO site, not a place for me to just leave bizarre lists.
This is also why you’re not getting a list of my favorite Transformers, so it might be a mercy.
I could just go with a list of games that I’m thankful for, but I don’t really want to just be doing that every year all over again when it’s really just one list with the names changing. What do I mean? Well, there’s a lot of different actual titles, but the fact is that I think there’s a pretty consistent list of games to be thankful for in terms of reasons.
No MMO can be in the spotlight eternally. Even some of the biggest names out there — your World of Warcrafts, your Guild Wars 2s, your Star Stables — wax and wane in the amount of press and attention they get depending on what they’re doing and how well their PR department is functioning.
It doesn’t take much for a title to fall off of practically everyone’s radar. In some cases it’s merely a matter of passing time and slipping popularity, but in others it’s just that the game or its marketing team hasn’t done anything of note in a long, long time. So that’s when you get MMOs that, when mentioned, cause the listener to cock an eyebrow and say, “Huh. That’s still around?”
Today we’re going to look at 10 such titles — not to demean them or laugh at some misfortune but to call attention to MMOs that are still humming along even though they’re not headlining news or ripping up Steam charts.
I like to think that I’m a better person now than I was when I first loaded up Final Fantasy XI. That’s how long I’ve been playing MMOs: I loaded up that game on the day it launched, started playing, and have looked back many times since. It’s nearly a third of my life, and I’ve gone from being just some guy to being… still just some guy, but some guy who has a career analyzing and writing about these games. And in the process, I think and hope I’ve become a better person.
Do I credit all of that to online games? Of course not. That’d be ridiculous. But I do think that playing MMOs can make you a better person. Not should, and not necessarily will, but I think that with time and experience, the possibility is there that they can. And I think that when taken in the right spirit, these lessons can help you be a better person in your day-to-day life. No, not by trying to get stronger by wandering out and smacking random wildlife with a sharp bit of metal but by applying lessons elsewhere.
The western has been limping along for decades now, occasionally rearing its head to produce a well-loved movie or game smash hit before disappearing once more. It’s certainly one of the most-cited genres when it comes to speculating about largely unexplored spaces for MMOs, but how feasible is doing an online western RPG really?
We’ve seen some titles tap into the western feel without being a true period game, such as WildStar and Fallen Earth, but no major attempt has been made to create an MMO in the wild, wild west of legend. Still, you look at how gamers flocked to Red Dead Redemption and you have to wonder if there’s potential there for something more persistent and massively multiplayer.
Today I’m going to mull over the finer points as to why making a western MMO would be an incredibly challenging feat — and why it would be totally worth it if done right. Giddyup, cowpokes!
Here I go, here I go, here I go again. Girls, what’s my weakness? Non-human races. But oh, so many MMOs let me down in that department.
Now, let’s be fair: I greatly enjoy the usual array of races present in most fantasy stories, which consists of five reliable stalwarts (humans, humans with pointy ears, short humans, short humans that are different from the other short humans, and big humans). And there are games that have done great things with the usual suspects. Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV have both done great work in making sure that the playable races are all seen as people by the game’s cultures, and there’s nifty stuff to unpack there. I like elves, even.
But I’m always super happy to find races that are really out of the box and can’t simply be pigeonholed into the categories that I’ve seen before – or if they can be, they’re at least interesting about it. So here are races from various games that are just plain cool.
RuneScape seems to be an MMO that’s incredibly easy to dismiss by the wider MMO community for being “too kiddy” or being a little too outside the boundaries of standard big-budget MMOs. Yet ignoring or belittling it would be a mistake: RuneScape has accumulated a massive audience over the years and been innovating and experimenting with ideas that other MMOs are too chicken to touch.
While it’s not a perfect game, RuneScape and its developer Jagex have shown a willingness to adapt to the community’s needs and try different things to see if they’ll take hold and work. Instead of coasting along into its elder years, RuneScape has been working hard to earn the continued patronage of its playerbase, and I think that should go noticed today.
In that spirit, we’re going to take a trip through 10 of the most innovative or interesting experiments that RuneScape has performed over its 15 years of operation.
Before I start this column, I want to say two important things. First, my experiences do not extend outward to the limits of the MMO genre; it’s quite possible that the good versions of these systems are already out there and I just haven’t seen them. Second, all of these are ideas that I want to be present. The core ideas behind all of these systems are really top-shelf and I like the concepts there. I come here not to damn these systems, but to exult them.
For as much as I might like the ideas behind all of these systems, I have yet to see them actually work out super well in pretty much any situation. Some of them I’ve watched getting ported into several games, some of them only show up rarely, but every single one sounds great on paper… and I haven’t seen it work out all that well once we get down to brass tacks.
Jumping into a new-to-me MMO can be a heady, nerve-wracking event. I think there’s a reason why we find our “comfort” games and feel a pull to stay with the known than to venture out more regularly to taste the fruits of other online titles, and that’s because there are so many small but crucial factors that play into whether or not we’ll enjoy our time in a game.
I see people all of the time asking for matrices of MMO features, which on the surface sounds like a good idea — but gets pretty insane when you consider how big these could grow. After all, knowing a business model and genre and combat type isn’t always enough. There are other deciding variables that can mean just as much to us.
So today I want to rattle off 10 weird questions that I would personally love to have answered before I head into a new MMO.